Posted by Kyle Redelinghuys in Running, Trails on July 13, 2015
Megan Mackenzie was kind enough to give us her thoughts on the recent Zermatt World Championships. Megan ended up placing and fantastic 32nd, with Karine coming in at position 53. Incredible results to a pair of incredible athletes!
All images courtesy Brett Nattrass and Megan Mackenzie
Looking back now, the whole experience was like a fairy tale of snowy capped mountains, waterfalls and lush green forests with perfect trails winding up and down the landscape. It was a trail runner’s dream of hydration packs, shoes and compression gear on display in every window. And a community of the most active people you can imagine! Being back at work and reality in full swing, I can’t quite believe it was real.
I was lucky enough to arrive in Europe the week before the race. I headed straight to Chamonix where the Mont Blanc Marathon was taking place. This in itself was a huge learning experience. I met all my running heros – Ellie Greenwood, Max King, Philip Reiter… It was amazing to chat to them and recognise their love of mountain running. With a finish line that blew my mind just gazing at it, it’s definitely on my list for next year.
Zermatt was buzzing with highly energised runners from all over the world. The opening ceremony was awesome. We marched down the spectator lined streets with shouts of “Go South Africa, Comrades” and one person called “Go Jamaica!”. Our team was fantastic -I’m sure we were the smiliest, friendlest and most humble team there. We had so many laughs together and we were just so proud to be there.
My favourite moment from the entire experience was a few minutes before the start of the race. Our team gathered for one last team photo and Thabang began to quietly sing “Shosholoza”, the rest of the team joined in and soon, we had a huge group of people stopping to watch us, videoing and take photos. When we finished we received a huge round of applause! Goosebumps. What a proudly South African moment.
The race was a difficult one for me as I experienced an inflamed tendon from just 6k’s in. The pain was bad and even though I tried to ignore it, I could not run a good pace. I decided to push through until half way, and in those kilometres I prepared my mind for how I would feel pulling out. I knew I would be devastated. By half way, I could not get myself to stop. I had to finish this race! The vibe in Zermatt (half way) was absolutely amazing. The streets were lined with supporters all ringing the traditional cow bells and yelling “Op,op!”
The second half of the race took us up, up and more up. Steep winding forest road that never seemed to end. After the 6 k climb we were treated to some technical single track in the shade and then… More up. The last 3k’s were very steep. And unlike our technical climbs in South Africa where rocks and trees force you to use your whole body to climb, this one was all legs! It was a path right next to the train track which left little respite from heat and sun. It was gruelling. Cresting the climb, the route finished on another 700m loop of climbing where you can see the finish line. It was here I spotted my dad and I could not stop grinning. I had tears in my eyes and finished the race with an overwhelming feeling, more emotional than that of when I’ve done well in a race! I felt as if I’d accomplished so much more than winning or doing well, I had overcome the pain and my mind had carried me through.
Upon finishing and reflecting, I saw some major differences between South African trails and this experience. The route was not nearly as difficult as races such as Otter, Molweni, Berg running or Cape running… The paths are groomed and runnable, and you always feel close to humans and help. It does not have the wildness that South Africa has. So appreciate that! The pace is unbelievable and that’s what makes it the most different. No one sets off comfortably, no one chats, its go time!
All in all, I’m counting myself the luckiest, most grateful, starry-eyed, day dreaming girl for such an experience. Thank you to everyone who made it possible. Salomon, Suunto, Gu Energy, Llama Bar, Oakley, Trail SA, Brett Natrass (team manager), Neville Beeton (coach), Alice Rawlinson (physio), Graeme McCullum (sports massage therapist), team mates – Karine Bezuidenhout (roomie), Thabang Madiba, Lucky Mia and Johardt Van Heerden – and most importantly, my Mum and Dad and brother for every second together in our little paradise! Onwards and Upwards towards the next dream.
The women’s results were as follows:
1. Martina Strähl, 3:21.38 CR
2. Aline Camboulives, 3:29.45
3. Catherine Bertone, 3:33.56
32. Megan Mackenzie – 4:15.58 (ZA)
53. Karine Bezuidenhout – 4:37.38 (ZA)